(CNN) - President Bush is often reluctant to talk about the presidential race, but he couldn't resist weighing in on Democratic candidate Barack Obama's remark this week about Al Qaeda camps in Iraq.
"That's an interesting comment," Bush said at press conference Thursday. "'If al Qaeda is securing an al Qaeda base - then yes?' Well, that's exactly what they've been trying to do for the past four years.... That's one of the challenges we face, is denying al Qaeda a safe haven anywhere."
The comments are in reference to an answer Obama gave at Thursday's Democratic debate, when he said he would redeploy troops to Iraq if al Qaeda was successful in establishing bases there after the U.S. withdrew.
"I believe Senator Obama better stay focused on his campaign with Senator Clinton, neither of whom has secured their party's nomination yet," Bush added.
Bush's remarks echo those of GOP candidate John McCain, who on the campaign trail Wednesday sharply criticized Obama for his comments at the debate, and suggested the Democratic presidential frontrunner wasn't aware members of Al Qaeda are already in the country.
"I have news for Senator Obama, al Qaeda is in Iraq and that's why we're fighting in Iraq," McCain said Wednesday while campaigning in Texas. McCain's press office also released a statement Wednesday stating, "Is Sen. Obama unaware that al Qaeda is still present in Iraq, that our forces are successfully fighting them every day, and that his Iraq policy of withdrawal would embolden al Qaeda and weaken our security?"
Obama sharply rebuked those comments, saying at a campaign rally Wednesday, "Well first of all, I do know that al Qaeda is in Iraq. That's why I've said we should continue to strike al Qaeda targets. But I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq."
Bush declined to talk about the White House race further in his press conference Thursday, saying "there will be ample time to discuss whoever their candidate - the positions of whoever their candidate is."
Obama issued a sharp response to the president and John McCain, saying both have "called for staying the course with an endless war in Iraq and a failed policy of not talking to leaders we don’t like."
"Americans of all political persuasions are calling for change," he said. "The American people aren’t looking for tough talk about fighting for 100 years in Iraq, because they know we need to end this war, finish the job in Afghanistan, and take the fight to al Qaeda."
Related: CNN Analysts say Bush criticism will help Obama
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney